165. Memorandum From the President’s Special Adviser for Middle East Affairs (Sanders) to President Carter1

SUBJECT

  • Observations on Where We Stand.

I have returned on January 1st from a week on the West Coast, and would like to take this opportunity, as we begin the New Year, to relate how the Jewish community views our actions, our policies and the current status of the peace process.

Unfortunately, everything I heard reinforced my apprehensions (expressed in my memo to you dated December 14, 19782). Jewish opinion in the country is almost totally agreed that the Administration is insensitive to Israel’s concerns about the peace treaty and its security requirements. In the view of the community, our posture is not only a cause for concern in the current talks, but portends real pressure on the Israelis in the upcoming West Bank negotiations.

The opinion has obviously been influenced by negative editorial comment in the major metropolitan newspapers. For example, in the week following Secretary Vance’s trip to the Middle East, we were criticized by a host of newspapers, including the New York Times, Wash[Page 571]ington Post, Wall Street Journal, Washington Star, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Miami Herald, Houston Post, and San Francisco Examiner. My own mail is 100% negative. The White House mail count for the week ending 12/24/78 was 85% negative.

The position we find ourselves in with respect to the Jewish community (and the Israeli public) is potentially disastrous for the attainment of a comprehensive peace.

Israeli public opinion today is not only bitter over our negotiating positions, but also deeply suspicious of our motives and concern for Israel’s security. The erosion of Israel’s confidence in the United States will probably not prevent ratification of any prospective Egyptian-Israeli treaty, but it will make it infinitely more difficult for the Begin Government to meet its commitment to full autonomy for the Palestinians. If Israel retreats too far on this issue, I fear that the peace process will grind to a halt in 1979. We must act to prevent this.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 72, Middle East: Box 5. No classification marking. At the top of the memorandum, Carter wrote: “c.c. Cy, Zbig. J.”
  2. The memorandum has not been found.